It is obvious that the workforce is growing more and more diverse, especially in the US. But, just because you have a diverse set of people with diverse backgrounds on your team, it doesn’t mean that everyone feels included to the same degree. Today we talk about three questions every follower is asking about you to determine if you are an inclusive leader.

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Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell Facilitator and Coach.

Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining! Hey, just as a quick reminder, you’re going to want to go to the website and download the learning guide that Perry’s created to kind of follow along with our lesson today. There you can learn more about bringing in some training in regards to the 5 Levels of Leadership and other leadership competencies that we can help you and your organization with but visit JohnMaxwellCompany.com/podcast and you’ll find that information there. You can leave a comment or ask us a question if you want. Well, today’s topic and again, not making fun of Perry’s but I often question these, and I wonder if he’s talking to me, I think oftentimes those that are listening, he writes these just for Chris Goede. But man, this has been a great series. If you haven’t heard the first three, you need to go back and listen to those. And today’s topic is called, “Are You as Inclusive as You Think You Are?” And we’ve been talking a lot about that.

Perry: Chris, you left “Chris” off the back of that.

Chris: Yeah, see, I told you guys! I need your help here. But we’ve been talking a lot about diversity and inclusion, and why it’s important to a leader to embrace that, to embrace the diversity in the inclusive culture. Perry, I’ve heard you say more than once that diversity today is given, but inclusion is a choice. I’m really intrigued by this. Tell me a little bit more about it.

Perry: Well, I travel and speak as you do and not so much lately, but we have in the past, and I’ve just noticed in our organizations and in the many organizations we work with that the audiences are very diverse, has a lot to do with the ease of coming to the United States and just a great influx of people coming here, and so, our teams are diverse. But I just find that inclusion requires a little more intentional effort from us, and just because you’re a diverse set of people doesn’t mean that everybody feels included. And, inclusion here to me, I want to define that is really about a feeling of belonging, I feel included, I feel apart, I feel treated in such a way that I know I’m an insider here, not an outsider to the organization. And I believe there are things leaders can do, or don’t do to help somebody feel more like an insider or an outsider depending on your behavior. So, this obviously has a lot of negative effects on a person’s desire to fully engage with you and that buy in that you’re looking for with the teammates and the business. So, I think inclusion and that insider outsider dynamic is a big deal.

Chris: Yeah, and I think it’s a big deal for all times as a leader not during heightened times or times of a crisis or a response, or I think it’s for all times. And so, I love that we’re going to talk about this today, and I think as leaders, we need to realize that every time we open our mouth, okay? Again, I think this was directed at me, you either pull people closer to you, or you push them further away every time you open your mouth. And so, leaders, I want you to think about how crucial that is when you’re communicating and when we’re going down this path. And so, when you recognize every person that you interact with, it’s going to bring some type of unique value to you. When you’re aware of that, then I think you’ll begin to just naturally promote inclusive behaviors that invites everyone on the team, to the table to be seen, to be heard, to be welcomed, to be open to giving their ideas, even they may be out in left field, it’s okay. And I think that is the type of inclusive behavior that you want to have on your team.

Perry: Yes, I’m going to take a little liberty here because I know in the 5 Levels we teach, John says there’s three questions everybody’s asking about you, as a follower, they’re looking at you and they’re asking three questions: Can you help me? Do you care about me? Can I trust you? I take a little, you know, liberty here by saying as an inclusive leader you need to recognize that the followers on your team are asking three questions about you, and the three questions that I think I’m seeing here is that: Do you see me? Do you value me? And do you include me? I’d love your thoughts on the three. Let’s just start with the first one, what does it mean to say do you see me?

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Chris: Yeah, first of all, I love the liberty that you took here because I think these are three great questions when we’re talking about this, you know, being an inclusive leader, and so I absolutely love that you did that. How many of you been in conversation, and Perry is probably doing it to me right now as we stand across the room from each other recording, and you’re talking to a leader of yours, you’re talking to somebody and their eyes are completely in a different direction. Not even just looking at their watch, because they know looking at their watch is disrespectful, but they’re not looking at you, they’re not paying attention to you, you’re continuing to kind of speak and communicate, maybe pour your heart out, maybe give an idea, and they just continue to glance around the room. Right? We’ve all been there. And we don’t feel included in that conversation, our input doesn’t feel included, and so, for someone to be seen by someone that means you got to listen attentively, right? You got to give them undivided attention. It’s evidenced by eye contact, and it just gives this kind of positive regard of the conversation. One of the things I think the greatest compliment you could ever have as leaders, if someone said, “Man, when I’m talking to Perry, I feel like no matter what’s going on, I feel like our conversation, or I’m the only person that matters in that moment.” And that’s how we should lead, connect and influence everybody on our team, especially, when it comes to this question you’ve asked which is, do you see me?

Perry: Yeah, that undivided attention and not scanning the room looking to see if there’s someone more important in the room than the person I’m talking to. You know, one thing that is interesting now in the times we’re in is that very little of our interactions are face to face, there’s a lot of the virtual meeting things going on. How do you maintain being seen? Letting somebody know you see them if it’s either through a Zoom? I mean, I can see you physically, but am I really paying attention? Or maybe it’s a phone call, but you’re checking in with your team, but how do you let them know they’re seen?

Chris: Yeah, man, this is so huge. We’ve all been on these Zoom calls, and you find yourself looking around the room, you’re looking at the other panels and you know, what’s in their background? Or what’s going on here? And so, I want to encourage you, obviously, to really work on looking directly in the camera. And sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll take the kind of the matrix screen of those that I’m in the meeting with and I’ll move them up as close to the camera as I can get it so that when my eyes are looking at the camera, which is extremely important, it feels like I’m looking at them when I’m communicating to them. Another little thing that I do right here is I try to lean into the camera, I find myself on the front of my seat leaning in, versus acting like I’m in my recliner at home hanging out just talking to the camera. And I think that body language communicates, you know, something a little bit different that they have your attention. And so, let’s talk a little about the phone. I’m learning something right now that I’ll just kind of share with our listeners because I think on the phone you got to be very intentional about the asking of good questions but also, the tone of your voice is so important, right? You got to have proper tone and I’m really learning a lot about this with my team. And so, I wrote this down for you guys, one of things I was learning is that you establish rapport with somebody in the first four seconds with your tone, and so we communicate in ways with our words, our tone, and our body language, our words 10%, tones 45% and body language is 45%. And so, you’ve imagined somebody by just listening to them on the phone, what they look like, haven’t you?
Perry: Absolutely. Yeah.

Chris: And then you meet them and you’re just like, “Wow, I completely missed that one!” And that’s the importance of what you sound like and the tone and how much people are imagining what that conversation and so whether it’s Zoom, Webex or it’s over the phone, man, you got to be really intentional here.

Perry: Yeah, I’m recalling, I was at a cross cultural event, it wasn’t work related but I was speaking at a cross cultural church thing and got to meet a bunch of people that were different nationalities, different backgrounds, it was all different, and I just was really curious, and I was asking a lot of questions, and when it came time to leave for the evening, one of the people came up to me and said, “I just want to thank you, I really felt seen by you.” I’ve never heard that sequence of words before. As I was driving home, it almost made me emotional to think, “Wow, what a gift you give someone when they know that they’ve been seen by you.” And one of the things I picked up as I dug into why that would be was a term, I didn’t make this up, I wish I could give credit, I can’t think who said it but, “Unconditional positive regard that I see people, you see people with unconditional positive regard.” And that just opens up that conversation if you add in curiosity and care, all those things that people feel seen. I think it’s a real gift that you give someone that they know that they were seen by you, that you’re off to a good start on inclusion. The next question I had was, do you value me? This I find requires a very intentional mindset: Do you value them as a person, as a teammate? Do you value their thinking or what they add to the discussion? It’s easy to say yes to all these but are you communicating it constantly with your action, words, tone as you were saying, eye contact, body language, all kinds of things, what are your thoughts on showing value?

Chris: Yeah, you know, the number one way to show value to another person is to actively listen to them, right? We all have tendencies to want to be heard. And so, when you invite somebody to kind of contribute to the conversation to an idea, a thought, a business plan, whatever it might be, and then truly listen to them, you’re sending a message that they matter. You’re communicating that to them without even saying those words. And so, man, we’ve got to just begin working on our listening skills and listen with the intent to understand, right? And so, when you do that, again, people will believe that you value them, they’ll know that because you are interested, and I love this statement right here that you gave me in my notes, “When someone feels heard, they feel valued, and when someone feels valued, they feel included.” And that’s what we’re talking about right here. We’re asking you to ask yourself these questions, or your team’s going to ask these three questions, and are we as inclusive as we think we are? And so, that statement right there just sums it up so well for me.

Perry: I agree. Final question is: Do you include me? Now, this is one that’s easy to overlook when we get really busy on the urgent importance going on and activities of our day, and it really may sounds silly but one thing I’ve done that helps me is to ask the people on my team that helps me slow down, I just say, “What do you think about this?” And then we talk a lot about inviting people into the conversation but when I say, “What do you think about this decision? What do you think about this direction?” It slows me down, it helps me think through challenges, it communicates that I need help, and communicates that I need them. It’s just a great way to help people feel included is to invite them in.

Chris: I’ll give you a, kind of, a last thought I had on that in just makes people feel like they’re included or that they belong. A couple of things come to my mind, I’ve had leaders in the past that when I am invited to a meeting, they come and sit down and have a one on one, and they say, “This is why I want you in that room. This is why you’re going to be included. It’s why I want you at the table.” And whether I contribute, I want to contribute, the fact that I came and had that conversation and they wanted me at the table made me feel like that I was included and had that inclusive feeling to me. And so, when you do that with people, when you invite them into meetings and different conversations, let them know the why behind it. Man, this is something too around communication, it’s funny because year after year, the number one leadership competency that organizations reach out to us for help with is communication, and even here at our organization, right? It’s something that we need to continually do that to where sometimes people feel left out of the loop, and it was just a simple—it’s not simple, but it was just a communication error on our part as a leadership team or as a leader, and so, we got to make sure that you think through, “Who needs to hear this information?” And you include them in that information. And then one last thing I think create this sense of belonging is that, man, don’t hesitate or miss an opportunity to brag on a team member in front of other people about a contribution that they made to the team; maybe even in their personal life individually. And when you do that, that will create that sense of inclusiveness. So here, let me wrap up with this, I love this, these are three simple things, and I think if you’ll live by these three simple things that John is kind of teaching to us and it’s kind of his life, mantra that you will be as inclusive as you want to be. We will always need to be learning. You’ve talked about this in previous episodes. You’re curious, you want to learn, but John says these three things: “If we will believe in people, if we will value people, and we will unconditionally love people, then I think you’ll create an inclusive environment under your sphere of influence.”

Perry: I totally agree. I think there’s a lot of things you’re thinking about, “Do people on my team feel like they belong?” And if they do, they’re going to connect, and they’re going to engage and they’re going to buy in, and we’re going to be in a better place for that. Well, thanks, Chris! Great conversation! As a reminder, if you’d like to learn more about these 5 Levels of Leadership, or maybe look at a 5 Levels workshop for your organization, go to the JohnMaxwellCompany.com/podcasts. You can leave a comment or a question for us there, you can download the learner guide if you’re so inclined. We’re always grateful that you would join us! That’s all for today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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We discuss five questions to help you equip and empower your team to think and act like change agents.

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